3 Hot Prospects Set to Break Through at Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich's winter break was useful in many aspects for coach Pep Guardiola. It allowed the ever-evolving tactician to practice new moves and formations, a steady return to match fitness for injured players and a chance for the club's brand to flex its corporate muscle in some of the sport's most emerging markets.
Yet such world tours are also a perfect opportunity for the first team to experiment with younger players who wouldn't usually get a run out. They allow them the chance to let their hair down in a stress-free scenario and really show their worth among the senior stars.
As such, the Bundesliga champions return to their duties with an abundance of quality in the squad already, with an added bonus of hungry youth just waiting to break through the status quo and demand a spot in the Bavarian limelight.
Here are three of the most likely candidates.
Mitchell Weiser may not be a household name on the lips of many Bayern Munich fans, yet the 19-year-old right winger has featured as a big-time player in the background of the first team for quite a while.
Some Viktoria Plzen fans may remember the youngster coming on to see out the remainder of the club's tie against Bayern in this season's Champions League, yet aside from that, the German U20 star has yet to actually step on to the pitch for Guardiola's side this season in any other competitive matches, despite making it on to the bench on six occasions.
A player who was initially a winger but has recently found himself at full-back and even as one of three centre-backs for the first team, the reason Guardiola does think so highly of the wide-man is due to the fact that he is stacked with a whole host of skills and a natural intelligence to play all over the pitch.
His first-team duties whilst away on the Asian tour were entirely through playing in a number of different backlines, and such a role, either at right full-back or as one in a back three, seems to be where the young player's future may lie at the club. Like captain Philipp Lahm, Guardiola clearly recognizes Weiser's ability to read the game and the fact that he prefers to play in more constructive roles than simply out wide.
It would only take a quick jaunt through YouTube to find a number of his fabulous solo runs or moments of extravagant skill, and as such, it comes as no surprise as to why he's jumped up the pecking order since signing from FC Koln in 2012.
Another player who has made his first-team intentions known is the young United States-born—yet undeclared international—Julian Green, who has streamlined his way through the lower teams at Munich's biggest club and now looks set for a bright future with Bayern.
The 18-year-old has only been at the club for just under four years, yet making the step up from the U-19 side to the reserve team was a big leap that Green took in his stride. In the same ilk as Weiser, Green is predominantly a tricky wide player who often prefers to play on the left hand side of the front three.
As we saw with his goal in Bayern's friendly against Kuwait SC during the winter break, the young star is more than capable of taking his man on and creating chances for the first team, as he has done for the reserves this season with 15 goals in just 18 matches.
Bayern are of course well stocked in their forward players, yet Green's natural ability to find a route to goal from a wide position is a talent that actually tends to elude many of the club's first-team forwards and may be his key to breaking through. Either way, we can expect much more from this young star in the coming year.
As perhaps the closest of this young trio to a regular role in the first team, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg comes in as the most advanced youngster and brightest spark at Bayern today.
The reason for this is due to the fact that Hojbjerg is a central midfielder that looks as though he could quite simply walk straight into the first team with remarkable ease. He started all three of Bayern's games on the Asian tour and is clearly a player who is ready to make the step up.
In the same style as Thiago Alcantara, the Danish U-21 international plays best as a ball-holding central midfielder with all the swagger and skill of an attacking forward yet the intelligence and touch to hold onto the ball in front of the backline.
His technique is sound and his vision to pick out a pass is as good as any at that age. The 18-year-old may have the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago and Toni Kroos in front of him, but it won't be long before he is genuinely challenging for a first-team spot.